EB drop points against Churchill

Kolkata: Churchill Brothers came from behind to hold title aspirants East Bengal to a 1-1 draw and end the home team’s dream run in the I-League, here Sunday.
Willis Plaza came to haunt his former side as the East Bengal discard stunned a strong crowd of 43,768 with a perfect finish in the 68th minute at the Salt Lake Stadium. But the two-time former champions’ lead lasted just 10 minutes with Kassim Aidara flicking in a header from a stunning Lalrindika Ralte cross to bring draw level.
The draw meant East Bengal (32) could not go level with leaders Chennai City FC (34) but jumped past Real Kashmir (32) on goal difference to occupy the second place. This was East Bengal’s penultimate home game of the season and they will next face Aizawl FC on February 25, before concluding their campaign with three away games against Real Kashmir, Minerva Punjab and Gokulam Kerala. For Churchill, who took a fine lead against the run of play, it was a massive blow to their title hopes as they remained on fourth place with 31 points.
The Goans have two matches left. Churchill will rue the clumsy defending by Jovel Martins who brought down substitute Brandon Vanlalremdika from a heavy touch. With Lalram Chullova missing from just outside the box few minutes back, Lalrindika took the strike and delivered a world-class leftfooter that zoomed into the net taking a deflection from Aidara.
Earlier, an unchanged East Bengal who had demolished Shillong Lajong 5-0, failed to go ahead against a compact Churchill Brothers set up. The Goans, in fact, dominated the possession and got a chance in the 14th minute but Chesterpaul Lyngdoh’s shot from Plaza pass sailed over the crossbar.
As anxiety started to grip the home camp, East Bengal finally got a chance just before the break when Tony Dovale received a square pass from Ernique Esqueda and found himself in a one-on-one position with Vigneshwaran Baskaran.
But full credit goes to Chruchill goalkeeper for thwarted the Spaniard’s strike from close range. East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar too saved a chance when he thwarted Nenad Novakovic’s header from a corner. Churchill went in for an over defensive approach employing nine players in the backline in the final 30 minutes.
As it turned out, Plaza scored the opening goal against his former team with some lack of communication in East Bengal midfield. Plaza made a perfect run after being set up cleverly by Nicholas Fernandes from the left flank as he was waiting for the space behind the back.
With Borja Gomez to beat, Plaza cleverly changed his direction to shoot past Dagar with a cool-headed finish to bring up his 18th goal, two ahead of Pedro Manzi in the race for golden boot. The stunning equaliser lifted East Bengal as they kept pressing hard but the Goans managed to hold on. (PTI)